This collage is from images captured during a short visit to Göteborg over Christmas. Towards the end of this post I’ll explain why I made it.
Well, the awfully strange Christmas 2020 is officially over now. While Covid-19 still lingers in the shadows, morphing into new variants all over the place, an armada of vaccines is certainly closing in. But it seems as if the virus knows this and is shape-shifting – almost playing with us.
From what I’ve understood, the new vaccines represent the next-level in immunology tech.
But what if this breed of virus is even smarter and capable of mutating beyond what all the involved pharmaceuticals can provide protection against? What if this is just the first installment in an endless cat-and-mouse game where, for example, BioNTech’s synthesized mRNA therapeutical vaccine has to constantly be tweaked to cope with new virus versions?
Listen to Kara Swisher’s straight forward interview with the two head scientists at BioNTech here. Or, better yet, read the transcript from the interview here. Kara’s podcast “Sway” is a new NYTimes.com favorite. Not quite up there with Michael Barbaro’s show, The Daily, at least not yet.
In Sweden, we have this old tradition where children open up “hidden” doors in a cardboard Christmas Calendar until it’s either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I forget which.
While driving back to Vejbystrand earlier today in torrential rain and then a snow blizzard, we listened to a few podcasts, including the aforementioned interview with BioNTech. It was while listening to that episode that I came up with the idea for the collage above. Smart scientists have found a door and located a handle to open it with. They’ve even picked the lock. But we don’t know for sure what awaits behind it…
More of my collages here: www.raboff.com/art
Our daughter Elle shot this during lunch at an elephant sanctuary in Botswana’s sprawling Okavango Delta a while back.
Whenever I’ve shown this image, the first reaction people have is that it’s photoshopped. Once I’ve convinced them that it’s not, they then ask how we dared let such an incredibly large and potentially dangerous animal get so close to us.
While definitely one of my life’s most humbling experience, up there with diving with great white sharks outside of Cape Town, we were never frightened or worried. The sanctuary’s three elephants were orphans and at least partially brought up by humans. So beautiful. So friendly.
I’ve been fortunate to have met dozens of elephants over the years in Asia and Africa, none as close as during this amazing bush lunch, though. A few days after this lunch, we saw a herd of elephants that our guide estimated to have about 100 members. That too was a surreal experience. I feel like I need to hug an elephant again.
The winter solstice is one of my favorite days of the year. Especially when I am here in Scandinavia. According to Wikipedia, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere happens on the 21 of December and is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.
Essentially, the winter solstice means that as of tomorrow, we’re once again heading out of the darkness and into the light.
I would argue that the light won’t fully return until January 20 when Donald Trump and his entourage of nitwits, halfwits, and knuckleheads finally leave the White House.
Understandably, at least from my vantage point, I’ve been having serious tribulations about how the disease arthritis is going to dictate my future professionally and ability to function frictionless socially. And if I extrapolate, what will its impact look like in a year, two years, a decade?
My hesitation to begin taking Methotrexate is based on the fact that it’s an immune-suppressing drug with potential life-threatening side-effects. Considering that this is a time of human history when having a strong immune system is crucially important, my worries aren’t exactly unfounded. Also, once you start with chemotherapy, you’re on a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to anywhere pretty.
And if it wasn’t enough to be on chemo, easier this week I found out that my already shitty vision has gotten a lot worse. So, worse case scenario, I might be both blind and bedridden before retirement.
So, as you can probably tell, dear reader, I’ve been having a pathetic “Pity Party” for a few days. I don’t enjoy feeling sorry for myself, but hey, no one is better at it than oneself. And as long as it doesn’t become a pathetic pity orgy, I think it’s perfectly okay to shed a few tears of despair in the face of what at times feels like a grim future.
Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of experience over the years dealing with all kinds of crap thrown my way. I’ll survive. Or, as the legendary Lebowski so aptly put it, the dude abides. There’s too much fun stuff to look forward to. Can’t just allow life to cave in on me. I will need to make some adjustments and learn how to say no more often, though. But then again, that’s something I’ve needed to do anyway.
So, fuck it. Time to move on. The Pity Party is over.
(Created the above collage from several utility boxes I recently shot in Malmö).
I like the drug analogy. I was both the dealer and the user and no part of my life couldn’t be made into some kind of creative adventure or give me the high I yearned for. After a while, I needed a constant supply of creative challenges to even feel alive.
Like with most addictions, it’s hard to fathom how life without the drug could be possible. A life where only the consumption of others’ creativity exists would be tres, tres, trist. Meaningless. If there’s a purpose to the existence of humans, in addition to procreating our species, it’s to use our lives to be creative, to invent, improve, iterate, strive for progress. How could making use of our extremely limited time on the planet by exploring our creative capabilities not be anyone’s highest priority? I am a strong believer in that everyone has a creative gift. It might not be easy to find, but if you try enough, it will show itself.
I’m going through some shit right now. A huge shit sandwich, actually. My body isn’t cooperating at all. It hasn’t been for a few years but I’ve been doing my best to camouflage my pain, invent workarounds and keep a stiff upper lip. I can only hope that things will improve with the new medication and a new mindset.
I feel like a heroin user each time I press the needle to my skin and inject a few milligrams of a thick, yellow poison. It’s going to take time before I feel any results. Months. And I’ll never be cured. Only more or less asymptomatic. Which is a realization I can’t find words to describe.
I’ve always seen myself as the original comeback kid. Someone that always makes sure to bounce back from the brink. From tough times. From hell. But now, for the first time, I can feel a strange weight. A shadow hovering above me.
I am angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. When do I get a break? Or, have I already had mine? Was it so short and sweet that I didn’t recognize it? Maybe that’s it. We have a certain amount of time where we are weightless. Without burdon. A slice of life that seems indefinite. Eternal. But it’s only a slice. Then comes the decline. Payback time. I’m not giving up. The umpire is looking at me as I sit in the corner of the boxing ring. He’s trying to determine if I have a new round in me or if I’m through. I think I have a few more in me. Just need to rest a little. Take off the gloves for a while. Collect my thoughts. Figure stuff out. Find the bounce again. How to keep moving forward.
Here’s a reworked scene from an upcoming short film I produced (1 of 5) for a company focused on attracting tourists to our county, Ängelholm. While the drone shot was planned ahead, I certainly got lucky with the sunshine casting those extremely long shadows. This is the first time (ever) that I’ve composed the soundtrack myself. It’s early, but I feel confident that I’ve added a new creative form of expression.
I’ve published this collage a few times before and it’s one of my top 50 downloaded images online. I shot the room with trashcans somewhere in Bangkok, Thailand a few years back.
I’m trying hard to resist buying Christmas presents this year. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are buying more stuff than during a normal Christmas as a way to compensate for some of the sacrifices we’ve all had to make due to the pandemic. We feel sorry for ourselves and allow for a bit more indulgence than usual.
According to a NASA report from 2019, a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in global temperature is projected to bring with it a slew of climate-related risks to human health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, and economic growth.
Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it a little counterintuitive when an organization so dependent on rocket fuel and so focused on space travel, is making scientific projections that reflect negatively on their very existence? Kinda like if an airline published a report about how travel by train was safer and better for the environment. What if NASA instead put all that amazing brainpower they have into solving some of the more acute climate-related issues we have here on Earth? We might not need to be so desperate about relocating to another planet. I mean, honestly, with our track record, what’s to say we won’t fuck up Mars just as we have Earth?
Captured this scene yesterday afternoon. It looks like it’s later in the day than it is. I started my hour-long trek around the village at about 4:00 pm. The darkness seems to arrive earlier here in the Swedish hinterland. I’ve published the images over at the Vejby Baby site.
Like the rest of this strange year, 2020 is certainly going to offer up an unusual Christmas holiday. A year of a pandemic no one saw coming. I just looked up the origin of the word “pandemic”. Unsurprisingly, it’s Greek and connects the two words “pan” = “all” and “demos” = “people” or, population. A pandemic affects all (or nearly all) of the people, regardless of whether or not you contract the disease.
2021 has a lot of promises to fulfill. But I doubt we’ll see a noticeable reduction of restrictions until midyear. Maybe even later if the anti-vaccine movement succeeds in influencing reasonable people to boycott getting inoculated. I still find it fascinating how the main objective now is for everything to go back to normal. That as long as we get to continue to lead the lives we led pre-pandemic, things will be ok again.
Nobody seems to take this unique situation as an opportunity to begin redefining our relationship with Mother Earth. Which worries me. We’re like that beautiful deer caught in the headlights of a huge truck roaring down a highway at night. Paralyzed and ignorant of what happens if it doesn’t move or change direction. Booom! If you connect the dots, the virus origin, the way it spread, the people it’s impacting the most are all related symptoms of something much more serious.
If I had to pick out 10 of my proudest shots, this photo would be among them. Even without palm trees, sunshine, or anything else that typically symbolizes California, it still evokes strong emotions of what makes me long for Venice Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It has the low-sailing pelicans, the gentle swell of waves, and the camaraderie among surfers most of whom appreciate how generous and privileged life can be.
When I was a boy living for a summer or a winter with my grandparents Agnes and Eskil Andersson in Trollhättan, rose hip soup was a common dish during the winter months. It’s not my favorite soup. Too sweet. I’m more into savory soups.
A light layer of snow arrived last night. Won’t last long, though. After a windy November, December has begun windless. Lennart and Charlotte are spending the weekend with me. Looking forward to spending some time with them.
I’m in daily contact with a few choice friends located all over the world, but my IRL life is barely measurable. Lennart is clearly the most enthusiastic when we reunite and it usually takes about ten minutes for him to calm down and stop smothering me with kisses. Poor guy, he probably thinks I’m his dad, not just a good friend that makes movies he stars in.
I’ve been thinking about all the historically significant events and shifts that have played out during my lifespan so far. I guess it’s the pandemic that got me started thinking about this.
The moon landing, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Flower Power era, Richard Nixon’s resignation, the rise of a more conservative American nationalism through the Reagan presidency, the fall and dismantling of the Soviet Union, China as a dominant manufacturer, the birth of the Internet, the birth of our daughter Elle, the global economy, low-cost air travel, the smartphone, electric vehicles, climate change, social upheaval, and protest movements – and the introduction of reoccurring viral pandemics.
I suppose each generation has its fair share of electrifying events, social, industrial, and financial paradigm shifts spread out across a lifetime. And today, the ability at any given moment to hear and see world events unfold is unique in the history of our species. So maybe when I think that I’ve experienced a lot more than the generation before me, I might just be confusing quantity with quality.
That’s not to say that the Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ movements aren’t as important as other socio-political crusades. But in the grand scheme of things, they are relatively niche and likely given a larger spotlight because they mostly take place in the US. I mean, you don’t see a lot of protests in America or Europe for the rights of the Chinese ethnic Uygur or against the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s almost decade-long slaughter of his own people. Us fat cats in the west are very picky about what we care about, for sure.
I find some kind of solace in knowing that most of what has transpired during the relatively short history of my life and the entire time humanoids have been around is actually quite insignificant. That what we have created, tall, deep, wide, fast, or large, is of diminishing importance when juxtaposed against, for example, the amazing evolution of animals and plants that take place over several millennia. Knowing that our species has always been equally capable of impressive and horrific stuff gives a little perspective when I feel like I’m overdosing on the onslaught of bad, sensational news perpetrated by the media 24/7.
The above collage consists of about 5 different images ranging from a skull of a dead water buffalo from Asia to a fantastic wall packed with old industrial outlets and fuse boxes that I found in Malmö a few weeks ago.
I was thinking about creativity today in the shower and how fortunate I am to have discovered my ability to unlock/unleash it. To be able to write, paint, photograph and film not only allows me to alternate between different mediums, but also to never ever have nothing to do during my awake time.
Ever since my discovery in the mid 1980s, producing my own stuff has been more important to me than consuming others. I definitely need a certain amount of input and inspiration, but if I only consumed what other creative people made and never let my impressions be expressed and exposed somehow, I’d feel pretty empty.
Once in a while I lecture high school seniors here in Skåne. The main theme is always a combo of filmmaking and photography. But the underlying layer is about creativity and how important it is to me. My hope is to leave these lectures with the kids feeling a little curious about their own creative ability.
I believe everyone, especially those that say to me that they’re not the least bit creative, can be just that. And if they only allowed themselves the time to explore and discover the keys that unlock their particular abilities, the need to constantly and passively consume others creative output, would be reduced and the world would possibly be in a better place today.
The beauty with creativity is that it is 100% free. At least the process is. But you don’t actually need a fancy computer, a painters studio or a truckload of camera gear to express your feelings, thoughts or ideas. It’s actually within the smaller, tighter boundaries that some of history’s most noteworthy and inspring art is born.
The picture above is from The Josh, a fine hotel in Bangkok.
Here’s a new piece for the Resurfaced series titled “Cranking Ahead”. It has an old bike crankset at the foundation of the layered collage.
I don’t know how you feel, but I’m certainly experiencing a more relaxed post-election vibe right now. I’ve taken a dose of The Biden & Harris Chill Pill.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in home where there always was a lot of yelling, screaming and fighting. I have a theory that I became so used to the highly volatile and often violent atmosphere, that it became the norm. One of the consequences, something I’m still dealing with today, is that I easily get worked up and have a hard time unwinding without being physically/mentally exhausted or by drinking.
So, with Trump finally avowing that he lost, albeit in a typically asinine fashion, I feel a little less wound up and relaxed.
The novelty of Trump’s un-PC presidency soon wore off and once those of us not hypnotized by his bullshit and/or mesmerized by an anomalous level of fear-mongering, doubt-seeding and shameless gloating, can now finally let out a collective sigh of relief.
Now, don’t interpret this as a wish, but should Joe Biden not feel up to the task, I mean, at 78 he’ll be the oldest president to hold the office, I feel very confident that Kamala Harris will have the grit and intelligence required to try to unify the country a little and address at least some of the most acute issues; the pandemic, unemployment, the healthcare system and, of course, the climate/environment. Especially if those two Senate seats in Georgia go blue.
Shot this in Lervik, on the last really sunny day here. I was almost tempted to jump in. Not today as yet another storm is sweeping by with cold, gusty winds.
Random Thoughts Monday
• Even though Sir Jony Ive has left Apple, the new operating system, Big Sur, is way too minimalistic for my taste. Function should always take the front seat and rule over form and design. The new macOS represents the opposite. While it’s clean and sleek, for someone like me with poor vision, the operating systems new design aesthetic – with a minimalistic approach to navigation and interface elements – is way too understated and therefore harder for someone like me to use.
Here’s my top 40 list of slick songs with groovy licks, smooth vocals, and laid-back beats. Artists like Michael Franks, Gino Vanelli, Richard Page, Kenny Loggins, and Lee Ritenour among many others. If you don’t dig at least some of these songs, you might want to check your wiring.
Shot in Los Angeles on Sepulveda near LAX. A fun idea with these new “airport codes”. But also quite sad. Some of my favorite airports: DPS, NRT, BKK, JFK, MIA, SFO, LAS, BBK, SEZ.
Here’s a “Wallenbergare” which is arguably one of the most classic Swedish dishes ever invented. It used to be one of my favorite dishes. It’s basically a burger made of veal accompanied with mashed potatoes, green peas, lingonberrries and a butter sauce. I shot it 6 years ago for a restaurant in Malmö after which I ate it with great pleasure eve if it was a little cold.
It’s been more than five years since I ate beef, pork, or any kind of bird.
I have yet to feel that declining from eating land animals (I’m a pescatarian) has been a huge sacrifice. There’s been a few occasions when lifting the lid off one of those stainless steel pans you typically find at a hotel’s breakfast buffet, usually brimming with steaming bacon, caught me off-guard. But once I start thinking of how poorly the pigs were cared for before they were slaughtered and then sliced into strips of bacon (and other cuts), and all the other guests with grimy hands and filthy fingers that have used the same fork or tong to shovel bacon onto their plates, I have zero problems moving on.
That’s not to say that I don’t miss bacon. I do. I miss the chewiness, the smokey flavor, and the salinity. Can’t wait for “Impossible Bacon” or “Beyond Bacon” to show up someday at the store.
This is a Vietnamese cleaning lady at Malmö Opera. I photographed her during the “We are Malmö Opera” book project 2017. I interviewed 54 individuals for that book and though the above woman wasn’t included, her colleague Tam Nguyen was.
I remember reflecting on the vocational distance between the lady cleaning seats, floors, and restrooms at the opera, and, for example, the musicians and singers. That the lady above, if she had been given the opportunity and encouragement, might have been a virtuoso cellist, conductor, or a soprano. Who knows, right?
I’ve always believed that everyone, every single person on the planet has the potential to excel in some field. That we are all, at least, to begin with, are at the mercy of circumstances that either inhibit or facilitate. The time and place we were born. Our parents. Our friends. We obviously have to recognize an opportunity and take advantage of it and not always choose the path of least resistance.
While I don’t know the backstory of the woman above, I am sure she feels that her life has turned out ok and that her children will have a much better opportunity to aspire to more than just surviving as she did.
In addition to being a fucking pain in the ass from a practical point of view, the pandemic can also be a bit of a “dream killer” – a creative inhibitor that squashes stuff I’d like to try and places I want to experience.
Even after so many months, I tend to forget about all the restrictions and mental hurdles the situation entails.
On the other hand, I also see this strange time as an interesting challenge. A time to figure stuff out and problem solve. A time for reflection and deduction. What’s important? How can I make use of my creativity to feel better, do better, live better, love better?
As Covid-19 continues to ravage the world, it reminds me of how fragile the lives we’ve taken for granted for so long are. That not unlike the lady above, we perhaps need to chill out and calm down. Be grateful. You know?
Met this fine feather friend hanging around near our bungalow on an island in the Maldives. We were in Bangkok at the time to produce a travel guide. A couple of friends had been to the Maldives a few months earlier for their honeymoon and when we realized that it was only about a four-hour plane ride away from Thailand, we decided to go. So, we flew with the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways to the island nation’s capital Male, and then jumped on a speedboat to a tiny atoll where we stayed for four or five nights.
The above is a collage of my father Ernest “Ernie” Raboff‘s Girard Perregaux wristwatch. It was manufactured sometime in the mid to late 1970s. Thieves broke into my little studio here in Vejbystrand the other night and stole it.
I’ve taken care of the watch since my father died in 1986 and though its slick style is somewhat effeminate and not something I would wear on my wrist, I have always admired the amazing craftsmanship that went into it.
I don’t know when my dad bought the watch or if it was gifted to him by someone. I do know it was the only remaining thing I had left from him.
Though considered vintage, the value of the watch isn’t significant. A few years ago, I actually asked a couple of horologists – even one at Girard Perregaux HQ in Switzerland – about its value. and was told that thanks to the uniquely slim 18k gold movement, bezel, and casing, the watch would likely fetch about SEK12k at a typical watch auction.
I wonder where the watch will end up. Will the thief keep it? Or, will he (or, she) sell it? Perhaps my father’s old Girard Perregaux will be used to pay off a debt or as a sweetener in a trade together with a bunch of other stolen goods. Maybe a “fence” will read this post and feel compassionate enough to get in touch and return the watch to me. You never know.